Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow William F. Lee ’72 is serving as the lead trial lawyer for an affirmative action lawsuit against the University and has recused himself from the Corporation's discussions regarding the suit since he took on this role, Lee said in an interview Monday.
“About a year ago, I actually recused myself from any Corporation discussion of the case so that I can act as a lawyer for Harvard in the case,” Lee said.
“I literally step out of the room,” he added.
Lee has been a member of the 13-person Harvard Corporation since 2010. He is also a partner at WilmerHale, the law firm representing the University in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit in question was filed against the University in 2014 by the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions. It alleges the College illegally discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions process. The College has consistently denied the allegations, arguing it “does not discriminate against applicants from any group in its admissions processes.”
Acting in his capacity as the University’s lawyer, Lee penned an April 9 letter calling the Justice Department’s intervention in the lawsuit “perplexing” and “entirely unnecessary.” The Justice Department filed a briefing April 6 asking the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts to unseal previously confidential admissions documents and information.
In a statement provided by University spokesperson Paul Andrew, Lee confirmed that “he was acting as part of the WilmerHale team and that the firm does not charge Harvard for his time, nor does he receive any payment for revenue based on the firm’s billing to Harvard as part of the case.”
Attorneys for Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions met on April 10 to discuss disagreements about the handling of confidential materials in the case, with Judge Allison D. Burroughs determining that a small, redacted portion of more than 90,000 admissions documents will become public in the coming months.
Burroughs also set a June 15 deadline for the parties to file motions on whether the lawsuit can be resolved without a trial, currently tentatively scheduled for October.
—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @delanofranklin_
—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @samuel_zwickel